The Toque of Raleigh/Durham North Carolina
J. Betski’s Restaurant
Old World Cuisine in The New South
By Carol & Joe Davis
Executive Chef Todd Whitney
We’ve enjoyed dining in the Raleigh area where we’ve found some excellent restaurants. J. Betski’s Restaurant is located in the popular Seaboard district and serves Central and Eastern European Cuisine. Restaurateur John Korzekwinski and his talented Executive Chef Todd Whitney call it Old World Cuisine in The New South. We started out with some cocktails and were pleased to see that they offer Ultimat Vodka which is ultra premium Polish vodka made from wheat, rye and potato. The appetizer that we really enjoyed was the Mushroom and Cabbage Pierogies which tasted better than grandmas. Our entrees were both excellent. The Pan Seared Fish, which varies nightly, with fennel, sauerkraut and herb quark dumplings in Riesling broth and the Natural Pork Schnitzel with Austrian potato, dill cucumber salads and lingonberries were both exceptional and definitely worth coming back for! The side of Cheese Spaetzle was also fabulous. We saved room for dessert and loved the Orange Almond Tort.
J. Betski’s Restaurant
10 West Franklin Street
Raleigh, N.C. 27604
Carol and Joe Davis
The Renaissance Raleigh Appetizers
I have always been attracted to North Carolina because I had heard so many positive things from my parents who lived there many years ago. They had both been raised in Southern California, so they were very attracted to the overall beauty of the state and the wonderful beaches. On this trip, we had the pleasure of staying at The Renaissance Raleigh Hotel in North Hills and were able to spend time with close friends and also enjoy some great food! North Carolina has gorgeous dense trees and exquisite greenery due to the amount of rainfall they receive year round. It is definitely different from San Francisco but also similar in many ways. We found that they are quite serious about their food, so we felt right at home!
Chef Owner, Andy McGowan
Piedmont is located in Downtown Durham. We were out for the day to see the sights and decided to join them for Sunday Brunch. We were initially attracted to eating here because we live in Piedmont, California. We also read some very positive things around them online. As we approached the restaurant, we noticed the exterior was somewhat understated but don’t let this deter you because the décor is very pleasant. It is modern with the tables nicely spaced, so you can enjoy your conversation. They were quite busy and the atmosphere reminded us of Berkeley, another college town with great food. This was a coincidence because our friendly server had previously lived in both Berkeley and Oakland. We were introduced to the Chef Owner, Andy McGowan, who was very helpful. He suggested some additional restaurants which were excellent examples of wonderful food in the Durham area for our next trip.
Breakfast Cheese Plate
Shrimp and Grits
We started off with their Breakfast Cheese Plate which includes a selection of 3 local cheeses and wonderful toasted walnut bread. This was a treat from the Chef and it was delightful! Our next course was NC Shrimp & Grits with bacon, mushrooms & scallions. Again, we were so pleased. Living in the Bay Area this was probably only the second or third time we have ever had grits. They were flavorful and light and the combination of the shrimp, mushrooms and scallions was perfect! We also ordered Brioche French Toast with fig compote, whipped cream and maple syrup. The texture of the French Toast was incredible, very much like light custard. We really enjoyed the fig compote, so we needed very little maple syrup. It was just sweet enough and with the addition of the fresh whipped cream and it wasn’t too rich. Just as we were leaving, the Blue Grass Band began playing. This was such a nice addition to a fun Sunday Brunch. This must be the perfect compliment, we have been craving this Brunch ever since and can’t wait to return! Next time, we will have to try dinner too!
410 Foster Street
Durham, North Carolina27701
Chef de Cuisine Ian Sullivan
Our friends from Raleigh recommended Vivace as their favorite Italian restaurant. Vivace is part of the Urban Food Group and is described as a contemporary Italian Trattoria. They are located in North Hills and offer the choice of very pleasant outdoor dining or a crisp modern interior. It was quite active when we arrived and the hostess was very responsive to our request for a table inside near the middle of the restaurant. We like to be seated where we can see the “action” in the kitchen and were able to watch Chef de Cuisine Ian Sullivan and enjoy the ambience of the décor.
Vanilla Buttermilk Panna Cotta
The wine list features wines from Italy and we enjoyed Prosecco to start. The menu is quite varied with a nice variety of antipasti, as well a choice of cured meats and cheeses. We enjoyed the Roasted Beets and Apples, as well as the steamed P.E.I. Mussels with roasted tomatoes and garlic. Pizza is so popular these days and Vivace has a great rutstic thin crust pizza from their wood oven. We enjoyed the Four Cheese Pizza with caramelized onions and Portobello mushrooms. It was excellent but be aware one of the four cheeses is Goat Cheese, which is not mentioned on the menu. Our next favorite dish was the Scallop Risotto which was perfectly prepared with the proper texture and wonderful medley of flavors from the seared Scallop, corn and a touch of fava beans. Of course, we saved room for dessert and we decided to share the Vanilla Buttermilk Panna Cotta which was a superb ending for our evening!
4209 Lassiter Mill Rd
Raleigh, North Carolina27609
We are big BBQ fans and this was our first introduction to North Carolina Barbeque. Ed Mitchell, the Pitmaster, is well known around the country as he won his Throwdown against Bobby Flay for his legendary Carolina Ribs. The Pit is located in the Downtown Raleigh’s Warehouse District in a restored meatpacking warehouse with contemporary design.
Marshmallow Meringue Banana Pudding
We had to try the Carolina Ribs as well as their BBQ Chicken. The entrees came with a choice of two sides and you have 14 to select from. These included some Southern specialties like collard greens, black eyed peas, candied yams and fired okra. We enjoyed both the Ribs, which fell off the bone, and the chicken which was juicy and flavorful. We also tried the Fired Green Tomatoes which were good but not as good as my Dad’s. He lived in North Carolina during World War II and developed a love for this specialty. We saved room for dessert, so we could try their Banana Pudding. It was beautiful covered with marshmallow fluff meringue!
328 W. Davie Street
Raleigh, North Carolina27601
Wood Fired Grill
Executive Chef, Steve Gaetani
The next day, we stopped for a light lunch in Durham and were drawn to the aesthetics of the rocky mountain inspired décor at Firebirds. They are located at the Streets of Southpoint Mall in Durham where we were taking in the sites. Firebirds has 16 locations in various states and first came to the Carolinas in 2000. They specialize in the flavors of Colorado with their Wood Fired Grill. The menu is varied and they serve lunch and dinner. This afternoon we enjoyed a recommendation from their Executive Chef, SteveGaetani.
Pecan Crusted Trout
Lobster Spinach Queso
The Lobster Spinach Queso which is a spicy blend of lobster, baby spinach, tomatoes and pepper jack cheese served with tri-colored tortilla chips was tasty. We could see why it is so popular. We enjoyed the Pecan Crusted Trout for our main course. We also tried Sweet Tea for the first time, which is popular in the South. It must be an acquired taste, as it was too sweet for us but a fun experience.
8030 Renaissance Parkway
Durham, North Carolina27713
Torero’s Mexican Restaurants
Our friends were wonderful tour guides and they also guided us to Torero’s in Cary. As a native of Southern California, I love Mexican Food which is a staple in that part of the country. We were so pleasantly surprised to find excellent Mexican Food in North Carolina. Torero’s is well known having been in business for over ten years. They have 8 locations in North Carolina and 1 in Pennsylvania. We joined them for lunch and found the Pork Carnitas to be some of the best we have ever had! The presentation was beautiful and they offer a choice of refried beans or Rancho (cholesterol free) beans. When you are craving good Mexican Food just go to Torero’s. Two of the locations are open for lunch, Raleigh and Cary Monday-Friday 11:00-3:00.
1207-C Kildaire Farm Rd
Cary , NC27511
Until we eat again…………